Lack of funding endangers future of Sudanese scholarship program

University budget shifts may keep a student group from bringing another Sudaneses student to GW – a tradition they hoped to institutionalize as the first scholar graduates in May.

Founded in 2006, Banaa is a student organization that orchestrates a full scholarship for a Sudanese student as a means of empowering natives of the war-torn country. The group began an effort last year to make the scholarship a permanent fixture at GW, Evan Faber, one of the program’s founders, said.

University President Steven Knapp’s office committed to financing half of a new scholarship – a change from the first student who was funded almost entirely by former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

Media Credt: Michelle Rattinger
Makwei Mabioor Deng, the current Sudanese Banaa scholar, will graduate in May.

“This scholarship was committed to by the previous administration for one student. It is not funded out of the president’s office,” University spokeswoman Candace Smith said. “We are committed to getting the current scholarship student through his studies, and we hope that the group can generate funds to assist with funding another scholarship.”

Faber said the total cost of bringing a student for four years, including summers and travel, is about $360,800.

Without a change in the current agreement, the Banaa student group would be responsible for raising about $150,000 toward the scholarship. In the past, the student group was responsible for funding only summer housing and travel expenses, valued at about $38,300.

When fundraising for the first scholarship, the Banaa group came up $15,000 short – a gap the University also covered.

“As a student organization at GW, we don’t have the means to come up with the money. At this point we would not be able to accept a scholar,” student organizer Ryan Brenner said.

University Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said the drawback is not reflective of broader funding cuts across GW programs.

Inspired by GW, the Banaa program has spread to other colleges. The University of Rochester provided a full scholarship to Sudanese students as an extension of Banaa in both 2010 and 2011.

Students organizers of the Banaa program said it brings valuable diversity to GW.

“The University gets a student that enriches campus. Some of these students come from war zones, which are the same things so many people come here to study,” Faber said.

Makwei Mabioor Deng, a student from Sudan, was the University’s first and only Banaa scholar in 2008. He will graduate this spring.

“I have been exposed to different cultures, different ideas and opinions about politics, religions, economics and other vital aspects about life,” Deng said of his time at GW.

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